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IACM-Bulletin of October 15, 2006


Science — Sativex effective in spasticity and bladder problems of patients with multiple sclerosis

Results of two studies with the cannabis extract Sativex conducted in the United Kingdom were presented at the 22nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), which took place in Madrid, Spain, from 27 - 30 September.

In the first study 337 participants with severe levels of spasticity received either Sativex or placebo for 15 weeks. Spasticity of patients who received cannabis and complied with the study protocol was significantly reduced compared to placebo. In this group of patients 36 per cent of subjects achieved at least a 30 per cent improvement in spasticity. There was a trend in favour of Sativex for other symptoms including sleep and quality of life.

In the second study 135 subjects with bladder problems due to multiple sclerosis received either Sativex or placebo for ten weeks. There was a significant reduction in the number of voids per day and during the night, and patients rated cannabis significantly superior to placebo with regard to the severity of their bladder symptoms.

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(Sources: Press release of GW Pharmaceuticals of 3 October 2006; Collin C, Ambler Z et al. A randomised study of Sativex® in patients with symptoms of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Abstract, 22nd Congress of the ECTRIMS; de Ridder D, Constantinescu C et al. Randomised controlled study of cannabis based medicine (Sativex®) in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis associated detrusor overactivity. Abstract, 22nd Congress of the ECTRIMS)

Science — A molecular link between THC and Alzheimer's disease

New research shows that THC may prevent the progression of Alzheimer's disease by preserving levels of an important neurotransmitter that allows the brain to function. Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California found that THC can prevent the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down more effectively than commercially marketed drugs. THC is also more effective at blocking clumps of amyloid beta protein.

The researchers said their discovery could lead to more effective drug treatment for the disease. They wrote that THC "inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) as well as prevents AChE-induced amyloid-beta-peptide (A-beta) aggregation, the key pathological marker of Alzheimer's disease. Computational modelling of the THC-AChE interaction revealed that THC binds in the peripheral anionic site of AChE, the critical region involved in amyloidgenesis."

The article is available at:

(Sources: Eubanks LM, Rogers CJ, Beuscher AE IV, Koob GF, Olson AJ, Dickerson TJ, Janda KD. A Molecular Link between the Active Component of Marijuana and Alzheimer's Disease Pathology. Mol Pharm, 2006, Aug 9; [electronic publication ahead of print]; Reuters of 5 October 2006)

Science — Scientists at the University of Mississippi receive 11 million dollars to research cannabis and other psychotropic plants

Scientists at the University of Mississippi plan to use a recently awarded grant from the National Institutes of Health of 11 million dollars (about 8.8 million Euros) to develop THC mini-patches and study the effects of cannabis and other plants in a new neuroscience research centre. The specific area of research stems around neuroscience as well as identifying certain components and properties of natural products that affect the central nervous system, pharmacy professor Rae Matsumoto said.

The THC mini-patch is intended to release THC into the body like a nicotine patch, although the mini-patch is applied in the mouth above the gums. "The advantage is by taking the drug orally, very little is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract," said associate professor of pharmaceutics Michael Repka, "which means we don't have to use as large as a dose and the patient usually won't become nauseated."

Jordan Zjawiony, professor of pharmacognosy, leads the chemistry project. Zjawiony says his group is currently working on identifying "psychoactive components of many different organisms, and that includes psychoactive plants, fungi, marine organisms and microorganisms." One of Zjawiony's studies looks at hallucinogenic plants from all over the world, particularly Salvia Divinorum, which has been used for years by shamans for religious ceremonies.

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(Source: The Daily Mississippian of 4 October 2006)

News in brief

USA — Reimbursement of cannabis

A Californian court decided in September that medical cannabis users with a low income who receive public assistance benefits from the state may qualify for reimbursement for the cost of medical cannabis. The case centred on Sylvia Price, who uses medical cannabis to alleviate severe pain. Ms. Price sought and received reimbursements for the cost of her medical cannabis under Lake County's public assistance program until 2003 when Lake County stopped reimbursing Ms. Price, claiming that federal law prohibited it from doing so. In September the administrative court finally resolved the issue by making clear that federal cannabis laws do not prevent the state from honouring its medical cannabis law. (Source: Drug Policy Alliance of 5 October 2006,

Holland — Indoor cannabis cultivation

Research by scientists of Plant Research International in Wageningen, the Netherlands, showed that the median Dutch illicit grow room consists of 259 cannabis plants, has a plant density of 15 plants per square metre, and 510 W of growth lamps per square metre. For the median Dutch grow room, the predicted yield of female flower buds was 33.7 grams per plant or 505 grams per square metre. (Source: Toonen M, et al. J Forensic Sci 2006;51(5):1050-4.)

Science — Migraine

Researchers of the Institute of Neurology in London found out that the activation of CB1 receptors causes inhibition of the nerve cells that control the blood vessels of the trigeminus nerve. Migraine involves activation, or the perception of activation, of the blood vessel system of the trigeminus. They concluded that these data "suggest that CB receptors may have therapeutic potential in migraine, cluster headache or other primary headaches." (Source: Akerman S, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2006 Oct 3; [electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Intranasal administration of THC

THC and the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 were administered to the nasal mucosa of rats. Systemic bioavailability of THC was about 5-10 per cent. (Source: Valiveti S, et al. Eur J Pharm Biopharm, 2006 Aug 23; [electronic publication ahead of print])